Encyclopedia of Renaissance Philosophy

Living Edition
| Editors: Marco Sgarbi

Arama, Isaac ben Moses

Born: Spain, c. 1420
Died: Naples 1494
  • Josef Stern
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-02848-4_18-1


A leading rabbi of the generation that underwent expulsion from Spain in 1492, Arama is best known for his philosophical sermons and biblical commentaries that oppose the Aristotelianism of Maimonides and his followers: their subordination of revelation to reason; their belief in the eternity of the university; and its consequent necessity that excludes miracles and individual providence. Yet Arama is no fideist, and values reason and philosophy as ways of deepening human understanding of Scripture, expressed through allegorical interpretation. A critic of previous enumerations of the basic beliefs, dogmas, or articles of faith of Judaism, Arama proposes his own list of six principles whose primary principle is creation which entails the possibility of miracles and individual providence. Arama’s major work, the Aqedat Yitzhaq (“The Binding of Isaac”), a collection of philosophical sermons that bring together philosophical argument and scriptural exegesis, was very popular and exercised a significant influence on subsequent Jewish thinkers, especially Isaac Abrabanel.

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Primary Literature

  1. Arama, Isaac. 1522. Aqedat Yitzhaq (The binding of Isaac), ed. H. Pollack, Pressburg, 1849; English trans. E. Munk, Aqaydat Yitzchaq, Jerusalem: Feldheim, 1986, 2 volumes; Jerusalem and New York: Lambda Publishers, 3rd. rev. ed. 2001. (The Hebrew edition also contains Arama’s other biblical commentaries and his polemical treatise. The English translation is the only extended translation in English of Arama’s thought but it must be used with caution.).Google Scholar

Secondary Literature

  1. Bettan, I. 1939. Studies in Jewish preaching: Middle ages. Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College Press; repr. Lanham, MD, and London: University Press of America, 1987) (The classic study of Arama’s homiletics).Google Scholar
  2. Heller-Wilensky, Sarah O. 1956. R. Yitzhaq Arama Umishnato (Isaac Arama and his philosophical teachings) (Heb.), Jerusalem/Tel Aviv: Bialik/Dvir Publishing House (a systematic reconstruction of Arama’s philosophy).Google Scholar
  3. Kellner, M. 1976. Gersonides and his cultured despisers: Arama and Abravanel. Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies 6 (2): 269–296, esp. 273–78 – rev. repr. in idem, Torah in the Observatory: Gersonides, Maimonides, Song of Songs (Boston: Academic Studies Press, 2010), 305–32.Google Scholar
  4. Kellner, M. 1986. Dogma in medieval Jewish thought. New York/Oxford: Littman Library/Oxford University Press. (A good discussion of Arama’s dogmas).Google Scholar
  5. Pearl, C. 1971. The medieval mind. London: Vallentine, Mitchell. (An accessible expositon of Arama’s philosophy).Google Scholar
  6. Rony, M.N. 2006. Social and political ideas in early modern Jewish philosophical commentaries on the story of the Tower of Babel. In Tradition, heterodoxy, and religious culture: Judaism and Christianity in the early modern period, ed. Chanita Goodblatt and Howard Kreisel, 167–184. Beer-Sheva: Ben-Gurion University of the Negev Press.Google Scholar
  7. Saperstein, M. 1989. Jewish preaching 1200–1800. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Septimus, B. 1999. Yitzhak Arama and Aristotle’s ethics. In Jews and Conversos at the time of expulsion, ed. Y.-T. Assis and Y. Kaplan. Jerusalem: Zalman Shazar Center.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Josef Stern
    • 1
  1. 1.The University of ChicagoChicagoUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Vasileios Syros
    • 1
  1. 1.Finnish Center of Political Thought & Conceptual ChangeJYVÄSKYLÄN YLIOPISTOFinland